DUI, The Super Bowl, Arizona, And You

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DUI laws will be aggressively enforced by Arizona law enforcement agencies on Super Bowl Sunday. Police officers in Phoenix, Tucson, and across the state will be working hard to identify intoxicated drivers – and to get them off the streets and highways – on one of the nation’s biggest drinking days. When the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos on February 7, football fans and their friends will consume 325 million gallons of beer according to Forbes. That’s a gallon’s worth for every man, woman, and child in the country – and good news if you own a bar, but bad news if you have to drive that day. The heaviest drinking days in the U.S. – Super Bowl Sunday, Independence Day, and New Year’s Eve – are also, not surprisingly, the most dangerous days for driving. Arizona is a no-tolerance state, which means that police officers in Arizona have the discretion to arrest anyone showing signs of impairment, even if that person has a blood alcohol content (BAC) level below the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Arizona police officers and law enforcement agencies across the United States will be on the lookout for intoxicated drivers in big cities, small towns, and on the nation’s highways. Law enforcement agencies will be adding extra DUI patrol squads, operating sobriety checkpoints, and arresting hundreds of motorists for driving under the influence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that in 2012, alcohol was a factor in more than four in ten fatal traffic collisions on Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday morning. Your chances of being arrested for DUI – or of being in an accident with an intoxicated driver – almost double on Super Bowl Sunday. Anyone who drives in Arizona on Super Bowl Sunday or any other day should understand that at least five different DUI laws are enforced in Arizona, including:

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  1. “Standard” DUI: The basic DUI charge is a misdemeanor in Arizona. You can be charged with DUI if you are tested by the police and your BAC level falls between 0.08 percent and 0.149 percent. If you are convicted for a first offense, you’ll spend at least 24 hours in jail and up to ten days. You’ll also pay fines and fees amounting to about $1,500, your driver’s license will be suspended for ninety days, and you’ll be ordered to install an IID – an ignition interlock device – on your vehicle.
  2. “Extreme” DUI: You can be charged with extreme DUI if you are tested by the police and your BAC level falls between 0.15 percent and 0.199 percent. If you are convicted for a first offense, you could serve up to 30 days in jail and pay over $2,500.00 in fines and fees. Your driver’s license will be suspended for ninety days, and you’ll be ordered to install an IID on your vehicle.
  3. “Super” Extreme DUI: You can be charged with “super” extreme DUI if you are tested by the police and your BAC level measures at or above 0.2 percent. If convicted, you could serve 45 days in jail and pay over $3,000 in fines and fees, along with the IID installation and the ninety-day license suspension.
  4. Aggravated DUI: Aggravated DUI is a Class Four felony in Arizona. You can be charged with aggravated DUI if you are driving with a restricted, suspended, or revoked license at the time of your DUI arrest, or if you have two prior DUI or DWI convictions from any state in the previous 84 months. The minimum penalties for a first-offense, aggravated DUI conviction include four months in jail, up to $5,500 in fines and fees, a three-year driver’s license suspension, mandatory enrollment in a DUI/substance abuse program, up to ten years on probation, and IID installation.
  5. Aggravated DUI becomes a Class Six felony if you are arrested for DUI in Arizona with a passenger under the age of fifteen in your vehicle.

As everyone knows, big sports events attract gamblers, but your best bet on Super Bowl Sunday is the same advice that’s good throughout the year – Don’t Drink and Drive. If you watch the big game while imbibing some drinks with friends, it’s imperative to arrange safe transportation. Quite frankly, it does cost a few dollars to ride in a taxi or limo or to take advantage of a ride service. Still, the cost will be far less than the cost of a ride to the jail, the hospital, or worse. If you have a truly reliable friend who will be your designated driver, go with that, or think about being the designated driver yourself. The NHTSA actually suggests planning a safe ride to your destination as well as a ride home so that you won’t even have your vehicle or be tempted to drive after drinking.

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There’s no doubt. The smartest way to avoid DUI problems is to not drink and drive at all. On Super Bowl Sunday, police departments will be stopping many more drivers than they would normally stop on a Sunday night in February. If you are driving and you are stopped by the police, pull over at once, use caution, and park away from the traffic. Place your hands on the steering wheel and leave until the officer requests your license and registration. Don’t be the first to speak, but be as polite and as friendly as possible when you do.

After you provide your vehicle registration and driver’s license, if the officer asks questions, you have no legal obligation to answer to those questions. The best response is to say, very politely, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent.” It’s a right that everyone in the United States has at all times, whether or not you’ve been arrested and whether or not your rights are read to you. Do not verbally consent to any search, but never resist an officer or express what they like to call “attitude.” If you cooperate with the officer and you haven’t been drinking, you may be able to get off with a simple warning about your speed or about fixing a broken light.

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If the police take you into custody for DUI in Arizona and request you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, Arizona’s implied consent law requires you to submit. Merely by driving in this state, you’ve “implicitly” agreed to take a DUI test if you are arrested if you are asked. Refusal to test can be penalized with a twelve-month driver’s license suspension. Before a DUI arrest, you may be asked to take a “preliminary” breath test, and that can put you in a quandary. If the preliminary test measures your BAC level at or above 0.08 percent, it’s evidence the officer can use to arrest you. But if you refuse to take a preliminary test, you’ll likely be taken into custody anyway, and the test will be required.

Throughout the nation on Super Bowl Sunday, scores of motorists will be stopped by law enforcement officers in traffic. In 38 states including Arizona, scores of other drivers will pass through DUI checkpoints (also called sobriety checkpoints). At a DUI checkpoint, law officers randomly detain and question drivers, and some drivers are asked to take preliminary breath tests. Police departments in Arizona will set up DUI checkpoints almost everywhere in the state on Super Bowl Sunday.

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You also need to know that if you are prosecuted for DUI in Arizona, the state’s Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) will begin an administrative procedure – entirely separate from you criminal DUI prosecution – to suspend your driver’s license. You only have 15 days to request an MVD hearing to contest an automatic suspension. An administrative hearing lacks the formality of a criminal trial and provides an important opportunity for you to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license. Clearly, if your responsibilities include driving for your job, school, or childcare, you do not want your license suspended. A DUI defense attorney can handle both the MVD hearing and your DUI case.

If you are charged with DUI in Arizona and you take your case to an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer, that lawyer will compile the evidence for your defense, question any witnesses, and look at a number of possible defenses. The constitutionality of the traffic stop or your arrest might be challenged. The accuracy of the breathalyzer or blood test might be disputed. Even the testimony of the arresting officer(s) might be questioned. If theirs is any flaw in the prosecution’s case, your DUI lawyer will find that flaw and use it to raise reasonable doubt about your guilt. However, if the evidence against you is conclusive, and you’re guilty of DUI, your lawyer will still fight on your behalf for a good plea deal, a reduced sentence, or alternative sentencing. Your Dui lawyer will thoroughly discuss your options, rights, and legal alternatives with you at every stage of the DUI legal process.

Super Bowls are supposed to be fun, but for far too many drivers, Super Bowl Sunday ends with a trip to the jail or the emergency room. Don’t drink and drive. Find another way to get around on Super Bowl Sunday. However, if you are charged with DUI despite taking precautions – or if you are falsely arrested on the charge – contact a good DUI attorney at once, and in Arizona, contact an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer as quickly as possible.

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